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In Snub to Google, AT&T Looks to Sell Alternative Android Phone

AT&T has recently discussed selling a smartphone powered by an alternative version of Android, the operating system developed by Google, according to one person with direct knowledge and one person briefed about the talks. If the proposed phone sells, it could weaken Google’s control of Android in the U.S. and set back its efforts to be more competitive with Apple by creating a consistent experience across all Android phones.

The No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier has been working on the proposed device with Cyanogen, which distributes a version of Android that’s only partially controlled by Google. ZTE, a prominent Chinese smartphone maker that’s had success in the U.S., has been in discussions to make the device, these people say. But its involvement was put in jeopardy earlier this month when the U.S. government imposed trade sanctions on the company.

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If the phone ultimately makes it to AT&T stores, as discussed, it would be a coup for Cyanogen, a startup that has had a relatively quiet start in its bold attempt to weaken Google’s hold over Android.